Monday, January 5, 2009

Organic Spring Mix Salad with Warm Brie in Puff Pastry and Georgia Pecans dressed with Sherry Nut Oil Vinaigrette and tossed with Fleur de Sel

Nut oils, such as walnut and hazelnut, make tasty vinaigrettes and are heart healthy. Here is a simple but sophisticated salad using nut oil vinaigrette tossed over an organic spring mix with warm brie in puff pastry as the centerpiece. By the way, the proper pronunciation for vinaigrette is vin-i-gret, not vin-i-gar-et that a couple of stars say on the Food Network. 

Nut oils contain heart healthy omega fats. Omega 9 is found in olive oil and hazelnut oil. Omega 3 and 6 are found in walnut oil and grape seed oil. A balanced intake of these oils can reduce the risk of cardiovascular related diseases. Make sure to store nut oils in the refrigerator as they can turn rancid quickly.

Spring mix salad with warm brie in puff pastry and Georgia pecans
Feel free to substitute walnuts for the pecans

4 frozen puff pastry shells, such as Pepperidge Farm 
6 - 8 ounce Brie cheese
1 (5.0 ounce) package organic spring mix salad greens
Toasted Georgia pecan halves
Sherry nut oil vinaigrette

Preheat the oven to 400. Place pastry shells on a baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until partially baked but starting to lightly brown. Remove shell tops, place on baking sheet with the shells. Remove rind from Brie and cut cheese into four wedges. Place a wedge into each partially baked shell. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and brown and shells are completely cooked.  Toss spring mix greens with sherry nut oil vinaigrette, Fleur de Sel sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place pastry shells on individual plates, one per person. Distribute salad evenly around each shell and garnish greens with toasted pecan halves and a shell top if desired. Serves 4.

Sherry Nut Oil Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons peeled & minced shallots
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil
2 tablespoons neutral tasting oil such as grape seed or canola 
Fleur de Sel sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put first four ingredients into a small jar and shake well to emulsify. Dress spring mix with vinaigrette, season to taste with Fleur de Sel and freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat. Do not overdress greens. 

We have always preferred kosher salt to ordinary table salt. Now gourmet chefs are beginning to appreciate the many varieties of available sea salts and how they enhance the flavors of food. They are called “finishing salts,” meaning they should be used at the end of cooking, as they can loose their flavors during the cooking process. Premier salts, such as Fleur de Sel, are known for their texture and the depth of natural flavor they bring to a dish. In our kitchen we use Fleur de Sel and gray sea salt for finishing salads. There are many finishing sea salts on the market today, including a variety of colors, such as the Maldon pink ones that Mario Batali prefers, grainy French grays, Hawaiian reds, and the white Fleur de Sel from the Camargue region of France. Salads dressed with coarse sea salt make them food for the gods.


  1. Sam, Love this recipe and info on oils and salts, I have a bottle of pink peppercorns given to me, was wondering if you have ever used them in any recipes or even seen, not quite sure what to use them on? Thanks for all your hard work & sharing. Patti

  2. Patti, welcome to my kitchen. Today I would love to be in your Abaco kitchen with you as it is rainy and foggy in our beautiful mountains. Think I'll have to visit your Today in Abaco blog for some of your photos of the beautiful Bahamas.

    Pink peppercorns are from Brazil and not a true peppercorn. They are the dried fruit of the Baies Rose. They have a sweet peppery flavor and are popular in French cuisine. I’ve crushed them and coated a tuna filet with them and grilled it every so slightly, leaving it quite rare. They can be peppery for my taste so I error on the side of caution when using them as a coating.

    I found two websites that have post on pink peppercorns. Foodie in NYC ( toasted them in a dry pan, ground them fine in a spice grinder and infused them in a mild vegetable stock and braised cod in the stock in a very slow oven. I would think that would work very well for grouper in your part of the world and I’m thinking of giving it a try. I have a bottle of pink peppercorns on my self as well. Another site, La Tartine Gourmande
    ( also discusses pink peppercorns.

    The brie pastry shells in this recipe reminded me of that wonderful big brie pastry you made at Christmas one year. It's always great to hear from old friends. Do come again soon.

  3. This looks great. I love walnut oil, I use it in vinaigrettes all the time. I just bought a bottle of hazelnut oil that I've started to experiment with too.

  4. Sara, I'm glad we share the love of nut oils. Since you are in California where more exotic ingredients are available, have you ever used roasted peanut oil in a vinaigrette? I haven't been able to find it here on the east coast. Rozanne Gold recommends using it in some of her cookbooks and says is provides an Asian overtone. I continue to look for it and wonder if it is a flavor I'm missing and should try.

  5. Sam,

    This looks like a great recipe. So glad you're posting all these wonderful foods on your blog.


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